Making our new gardens accessible to all… | The Urban Nature Project

The new pond dipping area

We believe that everyone should be able to experience the wonder of natural history and urban nature. That’s why accessibility and inclusivity have been at the core of the Urban Nature Project’s design from the start. Here, Harriet Fink (Learning and Volunteering Programme Manager), who co-chairs the Museum’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action group, talks about how we’ve incorporated accessibility into our designs.

The new pond dipping area
Artist’s impression of the new accessible pond dipping area

Harriet says…

This week we’re excited to share that work has begun to make access to our gardens step-free. The cumbersome steps that lead out of the TfL tunnel near our Exhibition Road entrance are being removed and replaced with a wide ramp, to make entering the gardens smooth and easy.

The Urban Nature Project gives us a unique opportunity to transform our five-acre site in South Kensington into a welcoming, engaging, accessible and biologically diverse green space in the heart of London. These exciting new spaces will: tell the story of how life evolved on earth; give opportunities for people to explore nature; and will be used as living laboratories. The spaces and experiences are being designed to be enjoyed by all and to accommodate as wide range of people’s needs as possible. The plans for our new gardens, and the activities that will take place in them, have been developed in consultation with a number of access specialist organisations and disabled individuals who shared their expertise and experience to enable our gardens to be as welcoming as possible for everyone.

The steps leading out of the TfL tunnel by our Exhibition Road entrance are being removed, making access to the site much easier

The ramp that will replace these steps, and which will in itself form part of an amazing new geological feature, is the first of many design aspects that will enhance access to our new gardens, there will also be:   

  •  step-free access from the street to our gardens for the first time  
  • pathways wide enough for two wheelchair users to pass comfortably  
  • raised ponds so wheelchair users can freely join our pond-dipping learning activities  
  • state of the art ‘changing places’ accessible toilet facilities in our new Learning and Activity Centre  
  • steps replaced by gentle slopes  
  • benches and stopping places across our gardens 

We’re taking a sensory approach to planting and interpretation – our new outdoor galleries will be designed to be touched, smelled and heard, as well as seen in all their glory. Interpretation will include tactile maps, audio descriptive guides and acoustic audio posts which will play the sounds of the environment captured through our scientific acoustic monitoring. Calm and contemplative spaces will also be created within our gardens for those that need a more restful space. Accessibility has been central to the plans and as a bonus we believe it will create a richer, more enjoyable experience, for everyone visiting our gardens, this week’s removal of the steps from the TfL tunnel marks an exciting first step in this vision becoming reality.

Ananse, Wisdom, and the World of Trees: Working in partnership with our local audiences  | Urban Nature Project

Pupils show off some of their creations

Connecting audiences with nature is at the heart of everything we do.  Thanks to money from National Lottery players, we are working on the Urban Nature Project to transform our gardens and visitor experiences at the NHM.

We have been connecting with our local community to help shape what goes into the new activities in the gardens, what stories of people, plants and animals should be shared, and how the activities should look and feel.

Lauren Hyams, the Museum’s Head of Urban Nature Project Activities tells us more about this work…

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Creating world-leading biologically diverse gardens at the Museum | Urban Nature Project

The Natural History Museum’s Urban Nature Project team have been working hard preparing for the landmark re-development of the Museum’s five-acre gardens into a welcoming, accessible and biologically diverse green space.  

Thanks to money from National Lottery players, we’ve made great strides in our plans for this exciting new space. The gardens will close to the public from July 2022 to allow major works to take place, but plenty has been going on behind the scenes to lay the groundwork and ensure sustainability and biodiversity are at the heart of these new gardens. Louise Simmons, Senior Project Manager working on the development of the new gardens tells us about some of the progress made to date… 

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Uncovering the hidden diversity of species in urban areas | Urban Nature Project

A man wearing blue gloves sits hunched over a tray of tubes as he uses a pair of tweezers to place small pieces of insects into each one

Over the past year, the Natural History Museum’s Urban Nature Project team have been working together on a project funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Thanks to money from National Lottery players, we’ve been able to develop and test cutting-edge scientific tools and methods that will help study the natural world in new ways and transform our understanding of urban wildlife across the UK.

In this blog, the Museum’s UK Biodiversity Officer Sam Thomas talks about how we have been working with partners across the UK to better understand and protect urban nature.

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Working to connect families with nature | Urban Nature Project

Over the past year, the Museum’s Urban Nature Project (UNP) team have been working on a project funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Thanks to money from National Lottery players, we’ve been able to support members of the Museum’s local community during lockdown at the same time as learning how best to create relevant nature-based activities for families.

Lauren Hyams, Head of Urban Nature Activities, and Harriet Fink, Learning and Volunteer Programme Manager talk about how they provided new opportunities for the Museum’s  local community and the UNP to connect during an incredibly challenging time.

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How we started our first Youth Advisory Panel | Urban Nature Project

Over the past year, the Museum’s Urban Nature Project team have been working on a project funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Thanks to money from National Lottery players, we’ve had the opportunity to bring 12 young people together to explore the causes and consequences of the inequality of access to quality green space and nature, which will help to shape the future of the Urban Nature Project.

Lauren Hyams Head of Urban Nature Activities, panel member Yogi Nagam and Theo Blossom, our Young People Programme Developer, talk about what they achieved.

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